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“Happily unplanned” is how Marques’ Almeida describe their recent return to the runway.  On the contrary, the brand’s AW22 pre-collection demonstrated an unshakeable precision and passion behind such a comeback. Transporting its digital audience to the rugged coastline of Viana do Castelo in northern Portugal, a bold and rebellious array of garments were paraded through the seashore. Navigating the changing tides took the design duo weeks to perfect; as if walking on water, each of the 46 looks on display created a wholly immersive experience, even without the physical presence of a front row.

Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida departed London Fashion Week for Paris in 2018, but since the pandemic have relocated the brand to their home country of Portugal. The homecoming makes itself known through the brand’s close relationship with a local community of artists and artisans, known as their family of M’AKER’S. “We enjoy branching out to find new communities in different countries and cities, and to expand our M’A family. It hasn’t felt ground-breaking to us, it just felt like a continuation of that mentality,” the duo says. It was only natural that such a personal project would find its way into the AW22 show.

Throughout the collection, patchwork and embroidery are the work of dedicated crafters and ancestral knowledge, passed down through generations and stitched into these very garments. Sofia Afonso – a fish scale and limpet artisan from Trás-os-Montes in North-West Portugal – worked closely with Marta and Paulo during their travels to the islands of the Azores; “We immersed ourselves in this nature, like an aquatic being. Dragging nets and fish scales was the picture playing in our head while we were making this collection.”

Marques’ Almeida’s emphasis on community extends to its casting also, having looked to its dedicated M’A community over full model casting since 2014. “In these moments we can hang out together and celebrate each other – our casting allows us to do this. It’s a form of activism for us in the fashion industry; the idea of having representation and diversity, celebrating people as they are, and rejecting all the other norms and systems that have come before,” Marta and Paulo say.

It’s a kind of raw and harmonious style that continues to evolve in line with the brand’s creative community. So, what does this intuitive approach mean for future collections? “For now, we are very happy that we can do these location shows as it means that instead of being stuck in a fashion week system where we have a 10-minute slot to present a show which is back-to-back with others, we are doing something which feels integral to how we developed the collection, our creative process, and the ambience of the brand. This makes us very happy, although we have no idea what the future holds.“

Photography courtesy of Marques’ Almeida.